LONDON — With Britain “significantly fatter” than other nations, the government will look at interventions to stem obesity, Boris Johnson said Monday.
In his third live broadcast interview of 2020, the prime minister told Times Radio he was rethinking his “libertarian stance” on public health after his fight with coronavirus left him in intensive care.
Johnson is said to have attributed his tough battle with the disease to his weight, which topped 110 kilos (17 stone and 7 pounds) when he went into hospital. He has woken up to the idea that the government must help Brits lose weight. He said options for intervention will be looked at closely.
“I have taken a very libertarian stance,” he said. “But when you compare us to other countries, we are significantly fatter — apart from the Maltese, for some reason.”
Turning to the British economy post-coronavirus, Johnson said it was “the moment for a Rooseveltian approach” in the U.K. — in reference to the U.S. “New Deal” of the 1930s, which saw massive public investment in building and reform.
“You can’t at this moment go back to austerity. That would be a mistake”— Boris Johnson, British prime minister
“You can’t at this moment go back to austerity. That would be a mistake,” he said.
The PM also admitted the pandemic had been a “disaster” and an “absolute nightmare” for Britain, which currently has a third-highest coronavirus death toll in the world. Johnson will set out further plans for planning policy and infrastructure in a speech in Dudley on Tuesday.
This comes after government announced a £1 billion schools building program overnight.
Elsewhere, Johnson heaped praise on outgoing civil service boss Mark Sedwill, after it was confirmed on Sunday that the U.K.’s under-fire top civil servant is stepping down. The resignation follows months of reports of tension between Sedwill and Johnson’s top team and is part of a wider shakeup of how the British state functions.
The PM also praised his controversial top aide Dominic Cummings as “outstanding,” despite his being accused of breaking lockdown rules at the height of the pandemic.
Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer argued changing civil service chief was the wrong priority. “Focus on the economic crisis, start preparing a budget,” he told the Today program on BBC Radio 4.
On the economic renewal plan, Starmer argued building more would be “not enough on its own” and warned there could be an imminent crisis in jobs with “the real prospect of millions of people unemployed.”
“It’s staggering that in light of the economic crisis that is about to descend upon us that we’re not having a July budget that puts jobs absolutely at the center of the economic recovery,” he said.